I Wish I Was Stronger

You are as strong as you want to be.

I was panicking when I first read these words. Sitting in my in-laws’ kitchen, trying to get a hold of myself so I could rejoin my family in the hell we were facing. I remember reading these words, sent to me by a friend in response to my plea for help and my desperate wish to be stronger so I could deal with this. ‘You are as strong as you want to be.’

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I remember when I first read these words I was taken aback, almost annoyed. I remember thinking; if it was up to me I would not feel like this, I wouldn’t be struggling, I’d be stronger and not paralyzed in this fear and sickness. I wouldn’t be letting my panic stop me from being the person I need to be. If I could be stronger, I would be. It’s not that easy.

Now, if this had been some quote I found perusing Pinterest I might have been quicker to dismiss it; but this was written to me from a friend who I wholeheartedly respect, trust, and love. I sat with those words until the message picked through the layers of ego and helplessness that stood as defenses. I took it in and understood. And no, it’s not that easy. But it is that simple.

I got up and walked into the empty living room. I stood there in the dark, power posing, repeating this to myself. You are as strong as you want to be. And then I walked down the hall toward my family and never looked back.

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It’s a statement that feels impossible and unrealistic. There’s a huge resistance to actually accept it – especially when we are feeling weak and struggling. And yet, in its truth is an immense power, a liberation. I didn’t have to be someone else, or get anywhere. I didn’t have to wish I was stronger. I didn’t have to worry that I wouldn’t be strong enough. If I wanted to be stronger, I just had to go ahead and be stronger. It’s up to me.

And then again, it’s up to me. Those words sting like a bitch when you feel stuck in pity or panic or depression or grief. Even when you feel weak, even when you don’t deserve it, even when you absolutely hate and resent that you are in the situation that’s requiring you to be strong – it’s still up to you to do it. To be strong and persevere. To do the hard. To do the impossible. It’s 100% up to you.

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Accepting those words allowed me to get through one of the hardest experiences of my life as exactly the person I wanted to be through it. I was present for every moment and was able to be so much stronger than I ever imagined I could have been. It was still excruciating and my anxiety didn’t go away – but I was strong. Because I wanted to be. Because I chose to be.

You are as strong as you want to be.

Mind Trap

I can justify anything. I’m really really good at it. I’ve always been really good at justifying when it comes to making purchases, going on trips, or eating candy. I’ve also been really awesome at justifying poor decisions and self-harming behaviours.

The thing I’ve realized that I’ve never been good at is actually justifying my feelings. In fact; I’d even go so far to say I was a fantastic un-justifier in those situations. And to be fair I still am (though I am more aware and working on it). I don’t let myself just have a feeling without picking it apart to decide if I can allow myself to have it or not.  

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My brain gets in the way. I can’t help but get caught into the thinking trap; that logical reasoning part must figure everything out before I can give myself permission to actually be with what’s there. It’s like if I can’t make sense of it OR if I’m not happy with what it means (after I go down a long list of all the things I think it says about me and my life if it is there) then I just refuse to let myself feel it, and more often than not – beat myself up for it being there in the first place.

It’s a trap I’m so used to getting caught in that it’s more like a home that just always has cheese and a broken door.

8be4adbb06f57891ca571d64640836e8I know I need to break out of this habit; hold onto my worth (which is really at the base of being able to own our feelings) and validate my experiences with compassion. I know this. And somehow I’m still munching on cheese, complaining of a stiff neck.

And I know, change is hard. It’s not easy to break habits. But I don’t think that’s the entire story here. I think part of what makes it so fucking hard to get out of this trap is that truly validating those feelings without minimizing or convincing myself I’m wrong or that I shouldn’t feel that way, creates a whole new level of emotions. If I’m not wrong to feel this way, what then? ….Aaaannd I’m back in the trap.

19591d5a2e54620805e2cba6c852c014Justifying my emotions is not as fun as justifying a Starbucks Venti Caramel Macchiato with an extra shot of espresso. There are way more consequences to justifying feelings than there is to drinking a day’s worth of calories.

Fun or not, I know it’s incredibly important I get better at this.

“She looks up at the building, says she’s thinking of jumping. Says she’s tired of living. She must be tired of something.”  

-Counting Crows

If you asked me how I was doing right now (and I didn’t cowardly say “fine”) I would say “awesome and horrible”. I am proud that I can hold both parts, not denying either part of my experience, embracing the grey. I am proud of that, but at the same time it’s not good enough. I’m not staying stuck here. I refuse to do that. I mean fuck, I don’t just dislike cheese – I’m fucking allergic to it.

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Freedom

Freedom. It’s probably the word that resonates within me the most over this year, second only to fierce. Just saying the word, or hearing it, makes my eyes well up and my heart warm.. or ache.

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I haven’t been able to get this word, or feeling, out of my heart ever since I went on the trip to Earth Dance over a year ago now. I felt a taste of ‘freedom of self’ during that experience and I’ve been chasing it ever since. I felt enough to know just how much I was lacking it, and how tremendously important it is to me. How crucial it is to address that yearning inside. How vital it is that I feel and experience that freedom in my life.

 

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The more I give myself permission to choose freedom, the more I feel like I’m getting away with something. Like I’m cheating on “real life” or being irresponsible (whatever that really means). I’ve been curious about this lately. What’s so wrong with choosing freedom? Why is there this weird sense of selfishness associated with getting to feel free and go with the choices that feel like a weight is being lifted? What is that?

Guilt from a culturally implied personal responsibility to carry your share of weight and suffering? Making those who don’t follow the usual script look like rule breakers? Perhaps it’s yet another example of needing to shift  our beliefs about worthiness and mattering. To embrace the belief that “I’m worthy of freedom”?

 

I’m not exactly sure what it is that makes feeling free equivalent to breaking the laws of physics and flying.. but I’ll tell you one thing – I’m not giving my wings back.

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I’m starting to make peace with that guilt, or perhaps more accurately, pushing back in protest. When I think “I can’t just go with the choice that feels like freedom” there’s another voice snapping back “Well, why the fuck not??!”. Full disclosure.. I’m not particularly against breaking rules 😉 

I have chosen freedom in a number of ways over the last year and I’m not even sure I have a word for the feeling I experience when letting the realities created by those choices sink in. I’m currently working on business and charity things that I deeply care about, while writing a blog post, in my comfy bed in the middle of a weekday with a coffee in hand. It’s something small, yet in another way it’s so unbelievably not small to me.

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The answer to this question tells so much. I continue to go back to this question for guidance, and I often use it with coaching clients. It’s usually pretty easy to answer, you’ll feel it before you can say it. Taking your answer as feedback can be difficult, and for that reason, I also find myself avoiding this question. It’s just too damn telling sometimes.

Once you feel the answer, the hardest part is deciding if you are going to give yourself permission to choose freedom.

Will you?